Every Dead Thing by John Connolly

Charlie Parker, #1

Source: Purchased rating

Hailed internationally as a page-turner in a league with the fiction of Thomas Harris, this lyrical and terrifying bestseller is the stunning achievement of an "extravagantly gifted" (Kirkus Reviews) new novelist. John Connolly superbly taps into the tortured mind and gritty world of former NYPD detective Charlie "Bird" Parker, tormented by the brutal, unsolved murders of his wife and young daughter. Driven by visions of the dead, Parker tracks a serial killer from New York City to the American South, and finds his buried instincts -- for love, survival, and, ultimately, for killing -- awakening as he confronts a monster beyond imagining...

“I believe in evil because I have touched it, and it has touched me.”

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of this book is: beautiful writing. Seriously. We all read books and write reviews that may say a book is well-written, sometimes penned as a mere afterthought, but rarely do I read a book that uses such beautiful turn of phrase that sometimes I just sat there in awe absorbing it. I came away from reading this being impressed by characterization, mystery technique, tension and storyline - but the beautiful writing and way with words John Connolly has is what impressed me the most. Sometimes poetic forms of writing overwhelm themselves and become more about the ramble than the stories focus and point - thankfully that's not the case here. While Connolly writes beautiful paragraphs that can sometime bring about philosophical ponderings, he sticks the point of the story and keeps things slowly but carefully paced. 

“We’re the world’s leading producer of serial killers. It’s a sign of sickness, is what it is. We’re sick and weak and these killers are like a cancer inside us: the faster we grow, the quicker they multiply.”   

Serial killer stories are a dime a dozen, and I grew bored of them over ten years ago. I never understood America's obsession with them, and I definitely didn't want to watch repeat stories on the big screen where the same plot kept regurgitating. Books haven't been much kinder - I shudder at the word thriller half the time before I make sure it's not more formulaic killer drivel. There are exceptions, of course, and this turned out to be one of them. This DOES have a serial killer but it ties into the detective's life story. Okay, so that's not new really, but it's okay since John Connoly does it the way he does - it just is. Somehow it works without being too tired or beaten on.

The crime is vicious and opens the novel as the already existing and driving force for the main character Charlie Parker. It's about six months after the fact and shows through flashbacks and recollections (beautifully written, of course, and seamlessly flip-flopped between) that time has passed and his life is forever changed. He's hunted down the killer before, but its become a period of stalemate until the next big thing happens. Enter new story for new book.

Charlie's life may suck but he's enjoyable to have as a lead for a novel. He's good at his job but he's imperfect. He trusts the wrong people and life has carved a grim negativity in his personality. He has one of those noirish detective familiarities with the street, settling into a private detective role where he knows everyone who knows everyone, works his magic at undercover sabotage, gets out of sticky situations without batting many eyelashes in the face of danger, and somehow always knows a little more than the opponent he's facing. Okay, again not overly original but - it just works again.

I enjoyed the side characters who accompanied Charlie to New Orleans. One was a semi-retired assassin, the other...well, I'm not sure but he used to be in prison. Bonding with that pair was a different touch. Throw in cops too - old partners who can only deal with the past Charlie while kicking out the present. New Orleans FBI who doesn't trust. Cops who go the extra illegal mile to help the case get solved. That kind of thing. It works.

Every Dead Thing is almost too long, but the book combines two mysteries in one. The first mystery is to find a missing woman, and the second is to find the demented serial killer who destroyed Charlie's life and family. The two tie into each other later. The weight of the long book was lightened when the author split half the time in one town, half the time in another. Changing the setting and the playing cast worked wonders to make it seem less overwhelming and trying. The serial killer wasn't really that unique - he was interesting as far as that goes but it's sort of been seen before - but the characters who are tracking him down keep the story fresh. 

If I had to have a fault, I'd say the therapist wasn't needed. She seemed a convenient romantic line to help save Charlie and bring him back up to the surface. It was a little too convenient on her expertise and career when it came to figuring out killer clues. Still, plot pieces and formulas can again be forgiven - since this book just works.

I also am a bit confused on whether this book or series is supposed to have paranormal elements. For some reason going in I got the impression it was a paranormally influenced detective story, but I threw that idea out of the bag as I kept reading it. Eventually some psychic stuff came in, though, and even I questioned where there were real ghosts involved at the end. I'm not sure if it's a one-time deal for the series and was just part of being haunted by tragedy, or if it's going to have a paranormal vibe to it throughout.

There's not a lot of new stuff here but it's still good - that's my argument and I'm sticking with it.

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